|▲People who take off their masks and enjoy outdoor activities after lifting the mandatory outdoor mask (Source: The JoongAng)|
For the first time since the 2nd of this month, the mandatory mask requirement was lifted and the Adjustment Plan was announced. Mask mandates have been partially lifted a year and seven months since October 2020, when the mandatory masks were first implemented.Mask mandates are being lifted only for outdoors. Mask mandates will still proceed indoors. However, it cannot be said that it’s not good news that we can choose to wear masks when we take a walk or go hiking. Furthermore, the gorvernment highlights that the decision of lifting the mask mandate is not to mean the, ‘End of COVID 19,’ and they also highlights that it is not a, ‘Free Announcement,’ that means we don’t have to wear masks outdoors.
The terms of the lifting of the mask mandate is for outdoor purposes only. Basically, when outdoors, individuals can choose to wear a mask or not. However, even when outdoors, wearing masks should be mandatory when attending sports games, concerts and/or a gathering where more than 50 people can be seated. In the course of other outdoor events, it is recommended to wear a mask, and you can wear a mask autonomously, according to individual judgment. However, wearing a mask as will continue to be mandatory indoors.
The decision to lift the mandatory wearing of outdoor masks is also followed by concerns and criticism from experts. Choi Jae wook, a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Korea University, criticized, "It is too early for the government to lift its obligation to wear outdoor masks without scientific evidence," adding, "The biggest problem is that the war against the virus is only in a lull, but this decision can give an idea of, ‘end of COVID 19,’ to people." In addition, Chun Eun mi, a Professor of Respiratory Medicine at Ewha Womans University Mokdong Hospital, stressed, "Uninfected people should keep wearing masks outdoors as much as possible to avoid infection in crowded situations."
The decision is also met with mixed reactions among the public. People who usually enjoy exercising said that wearing a mask made them sweat more and feel uncomfortable because they couldn't breathe as well, adding, "Now I think I'll enjoy exercising." On the other hand, cafe part timers question whether people who were taking off their masks outside, will wear masks properly when entering the cafe, and they are worried that there will be more work to deal with from the part timer's point of view. Some people take the decision for granted by saying, “It is ironic to not let us wear masks outside while we are allowed to eat food in restaurants without wearing masks.”
Prime Minister Kim Bu gyeom, said at a meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters, held at the Seoul Government Complex on the 29th of last month, "This lifting of the obligation to wear outdoor masks went through fierce discussions in consideration of experts and global trends." He also added an explanation for the decision to lift the mandatory outdoor mask, saying, "There were some concerns, but we decided that we could not continue to turn a blind eye to the frustration and inconvenience of the people, who could not take off their masks even on a walk alone or while on a family picnic."
The lifting of the mandatory outdoor mask is accompanied by welcome and concern. The adjustment of the conditions for wearing masks, in part, may be the result of the efforts made by the government and the public together. Nevertheless, just as this decision is not an, "end of COVID 19," or a, "mask free declaration," the government should thoroughly manage and supervise the situation, under the mandatory conditions of wearing masks and not become too relaxed. Our public should follow the government's disinfection guidelines to the end of the pandemic and fulfill their responsibilities in disease prevention.
By Kim Su-gyeong, cub-reporter email@example.com
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